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Rescue Workers Look for Landslide Victims in Western Kenya

Rescue workers from the Kenyan army, the Red Cross, and communities in western Kenya are searching for more victims from a landslide that is known to have killed at least five people on Saturday. Arjun Kohli reports for VOA from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

A smaller landslide early Monday followed a larger and more destructive one on Saturday, hampering rescue efforts.

Saturday's landslide covered four houses and destroyed surrounding maize fields in a rural village in Kakamega district in western Kenya. The affected Luhya community is helping the Kenyan army and the Red Cross deal with the disaster.

Rescue workers say rain, coupled with more mudslides and no electricity in the area are hampering their efforts. A relief officer from the Red Cross, Maurice Anyango, spoke to VOA from the field.

"We have a total of 90 workers who are working in that particular area that is affected," he said. "So far, four houses were covered by the landslide and a few destruction of the maize crop. It has been raining. At the moment it has started drizzling again, which, if it is continuous will hinder the process of retrieving. So far, according to the police, there are a total of 13 people reported missing and we have retrieved five, so we are talking about eight that are still there.

The mainly Luhya community in Western Kenya farms on deforested slopes, which Red Cross spokesperson Linet Otieno says is a cause of the landslides.

"It is because of two reasons," she said. "One is deforestation, and then the rainy season. It has been raining really hard and the soil was loose initially and now the heavy rains have coupled it. This has never happened in this area before. I think it is because of increased deforestation. That area is mainly an agricultural area. I think that is what has led to deforestation because as the population increases they need more land to farm and thus they have to cut down more trees to do their farming activities."

The crops were ready for harvest before the slides and rescue workers say they now expect food shortages in the area.